This week’s photo essay is by Kristen Ng, a Chengdu-based promoter and musician who runs the offbeat touring label Kiwese, facilitates live music programming at NU SPACE Chengdu and performs electronic music as Kaishandao. She’s selected seven snaps from her recent nationwide tour with New Zealand’s The All Seeing Hand: hardcore slow train tour life.

“Welcome to the World Capital of Small Commodities” read a robust billboard in Chinese, English, Spanish, Arabic and Korean. Just a short bullet train from Hangzhou, Yiwu in south Zhejiang province is a bizarre intersection of cultures spawned from the global demand for random plastic shit. Each block was dedicated to a different niche — jewelry beads, Christmas decorations, faux pot plants. There were more signs in Cyrillic than English, more Middle Eastern restaurants than fast food chains, more delivery bikes than pedestrians. Nathan bought a bag of 100 silver skull rings at a wholesale market the size of a small village. But that’s not the reason we came.

Gebi is an experimental music venue in a refurbished old temple about a thirty-minute drive away from town, a distinct counterpoint to the mass reproduction and commerce of Yiwu. Having recently celebrated its tenth birthday, Gebi attracts a range of eccentric characters from around the country, such as Ren Shang, an artist from Hangzhou who performed an elaborate show using computer generated noise, dripping water from a soaked wedding dress and a big black gimp mask with internal breathing tubes. Upon arriving, she took us swimming up the hill.

Up top is a photo of two local swimmers taking a dip in the reservoir behind Gebi. The water is warm, the dress code is nude. Once we’d swum about halfway, the dark patches in the water started giving off seriously creepy Loch Ness Monster/Lake Placid vibes.

“These guys have probably never seen a Chinese dick before,” said the older man at the edge of the water, flashing open his towel.

Yiwu, the world capital of small commodities.

TOUR TIP #5: Never say to no to a swim. Reinvigorating.

Related:

Video: “Second Tier City” Yiwu Documentary